Parliament to decide, executive will follow

national assembly of pakistanISLAMABAD: The top civilian and military leadership on Wednesday reviewed Pakistan’s relations with the United States (US) and decided to abide by the decisions of the joint session of parliament, slated for March 17, on the restoration of suspended NATO supplies, CIA drone strikes in the tribal regions and other conflicts with the US.

A high-level meeting was held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and ambassador to US Sherry Rehman in attendance.Sherry had arrived on Saturday night last week to brief the leadership about the outcome of her meetings with senior American officials on various aspects of Pak-US relations.

Rehman apprised the meeting about the anxiety amongst US policy makers over the delay from Pakistan in restoring NATO supplies. The US administration was due to issue a formal apology over the Salala airstrikes last Thursday but it was put off after riots broke out in Afghanistan over the desecration of the Holy Quran at a US military base in the country.

Pakistani authorities were told that the US intended to apologise and the reasons for postponing the apology.Sources privy to the meeting said that the country’s top leadership held the view that Pakistan will follow the parliament’s decision on how to continue relations with the US and American authorities must wait for the March 17 joint session of parliament instead of pressurizing Islamabad. An official source requesting anonymity said, “It was also decided that any future ties with the United States would be based on mutual respect and equality and Washington would have to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

He said that the joint session of National Assembly and Senate was likely to approve a unanimous resolution urging the US to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and refrain from unilateral military actions on Pakistani soil and end drone strikes.He said, “NATO supplies are likely to be restored in light of the parliamentary resolution – albeit with certain conditions such as the imposition of tax on every container and oil tanker crossing into Afghanistan.” However, he said that the country’s civilian and military leadership expressed displeasure over the recently introduced resolution in US Congress by a US lawmaker seeking sovereignty for the people of Balochistan.

Sources said, “The meeting also expressed concern over the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent statement that Pakistan is suspected for diverting aid meant for social sector to the country’s nuclear program and that Islamabad is doing little to aid the US in efforts to curb Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs).” He said that Sherry, due to leave for Washington on March 4, will convey the sentiments of Pakistani policy makers to US officials on her return and the terms and conditions of future ties.

He said that the meeting also discussed the Afghanistan situation and Islamabad’s role in the ongoing reconciliation process with the Taliban.Spokesperson to the President, Farhatullah Babar said that the meeting took stock of Pak- US relations. – PT